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Schools choose to host virtual graduations

NATCHEZ — Cathedral High School, Natchez Early College Academy and Natchez High School plan to host virtual graduation ceremonies rather than in-person ceremonies for the Class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cathedral High School principal Norm Yvon said Friday that Cathedral’s graduation ceremony would be open to graduating seniors only as well as a few school representatives and staff and be streamed live for the students’ families to watch on social media.

Each of the 42 seniors should be able to graduate at the same time with safety precautions in place provided that the state’s COVID-19 guidelines do not change before the ceremony.

“The plan as it stands is we will have a graduates-only commencement ceremony on June 5 that will be live streamed for parents, family, faculty and anyone else who would want to watch,” Yvon said. “… We’re sorry that we couldn’t do a traditional graduation this year and we will do everything we can to try to make this a memorable and good experience for our students and everyone else as we can.”

Natchez Adams School District Superintendent Fred Butcher said officers of each schools’ Student Government Association expressed that their wish was to have a traditional graduation ceremony later in the summer.

However, district officials were uncertain about whether it would be safe to gather before some graduating students left for summer vacations, for college or to join the U.S. Army Butcher said.

The Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees planned to discuss graduation options for Natchez Early College and Natchez High School during their regularly scheduled meeting that was hosted via teleconference on Tuesday but moved their discussion into executive session, which is closed to the public.

Board officials said the discussion qualified for a closed meeting as “potential litigation.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Fred Butcher said the board agreed to host a virtual graduation ceremony due to uncertainty about students’ and spectators’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Butcher said the board discussed the possibility of making a pre-recorded video of the ceremony and speeches to be given to students on June 25 and also of inviting the Class of 2020 alumni back for a double graduation ceremony the following year.

“It’s not what our students want or their parents but we don’t want to do anything that could cause a spike (in COVID-19 cases),” Butcher said. “We have talked about having a double graduation next year, one for the Class of 2020 and one for the Class of 2021.”